Getting in the game
A look at the cost of participating in youth sports
Saturday, Jun 14, 2014 06:00 am
In May the Gazette received an email inquiry from a parent who was puzzled by the “high cost of playing soccer” through the St. Albert Soccer Association. In the parent’s opinion, costs should be much lower due to the use of volunteer coaches, team sponsorships, the large number of participants and the absence of referees at the younger levels.
Curious about the query, Gazette reporter Berkley Lamb investigated the costs associated with various sports in St. Albert and compiled the following report.
It hits a parent’s heart hard watching his or her child lose a soccer game or take a solid check in hockey. But what can hit harder is the heavy toll on the wallet that comes from registering children in sports.
While some parents may question why sports programs cost what they do, organizers say there are many costs involved in providing players with meaningful sporting experiences. For example, costs for busing, facility maintenance and officiating are associated with most organized sports but are often overlooked by parents, say sports officials.
Many sports organizations have to estimate what the cost of each team’s season will be based on the previous years’ expenses. Factors involved include the number of players, the frequency of play and the amount of travel that’s expected. From these projections, the organizations determine what fees to charge for the upcoming season. The actual number of players can vary from the projections and this affects the organization’s finances.
“We do make profits some years and losses some years,” explains Melody Martyn of the St. Albert Soccer Association.
Profits are banked and used to offset fees in future years, she says.
For several sports, such as outdoor soccer and football, the weather plays a significant factor in the cost of playing, as extra field time needs to be rented to make up for rained out games.
Several sports, especially contact sports, require expensive equipment in order to protect players from serious injury. Since injuries are frequent in sports, many programs also need to cover an insurance payment for players.
Also, for elite athletes who play at a high level, there are often extra fees involved in trying out for the higher tiers.
Many youth sports rely on volunteer coaches, which is vital to keeping fees down, says Mike Marano of St. Albert Minor Football.
Another cost to consider is refereeing. The younger tiers often don’t have referees to keep costs down and game play flowing. The older tiers require a referee, which places an additional cost that’s reflected in the fees charged to parents.
In St. Albert there are 17 outdoor rinks, 23 outdoor fields, 47 soccer and football fields, 28 baseball diamonds, five clubhouses, 25 school gyms, five sheets of ice, tennis courts, Fowler Track, and Riel Field.
Local youth sports organizations get a 30 to 50 per cent discount to rent these facilities, says Kelly McConnell, manager of the city’s community recreation branch, which books facilities in St. Albert.
St. Albert sets its fees so they’re on par with what other facilities in surrounding communities are charging teams, yet it still boils down to having enough revenue to run and maintain facilities, he says.
“We look at a balance between what is a fair fee to pay to cover some of the costs of operating, plus not making it cost prohibitive for the programs,” explains McConnell.
What sport do I put my child in? This is a question that many parents grapple with, and costs are often part of the equation when it comes to making a decision. The following is a breakdown of various St. Albert sports clubs fees:
The baseball season is at the mercy of St. Albert spring weather, which often determines the amount of games and practice times that teams get. Rep baseball refers to the AA and AAA levels of play, dependent on players’ ability and level of commitment.
Players provide their own gloves and shoes.
Rally Cap (2007-2009) $145
Rookie (2005-2006) $200
Mosquito (2003-2004) $260 Rep $310
PeeWee (2001-2002) $270 Rep $320
Bantam (1999-2000) $280 Rep $555
Midget (1996-1998) $290 Rep $640
Junior (1995 and earlier) $500
Basketball has a season that is generally longer than in other sports, ranging from mid-November to mid-April. The large majority of fees associated with basketball is used to rent gym space for games and practices, and for the team to own a set of basketballs and jerseys.
The other equipment required, such as shoes, are not provided by the team or organization in order to keep fees low.
The juvenile age group has a very short season as this season is intended to be used as a refresher for high school tryouts. For both bantam and midget leagues, there are a set of tryouts hosted in order to have an elite team in both categories.
Initiation (2008-2009) $120
Junior (2007-2008) $140
Junior Pre-Mini (2005-2006) $140
Mini (2004-2005) $225
Bantam (2002-2003) $275
Midget (2000-2001) $275
Juvenile (1997-1999) $175
Figure skating requires a very high level of commitment and is an expensive sport. The costs listed below are according to the 2013-14 season, which consisted of 31 weeks of training for athletes.
In both the junior and intermediate/senior level there are three levels of competition, depending on price and level of commitment by each athlete. Coaches are paid for their instruction.
Participants provide their own skates and outfits for practice and performance.
Highest package: 9.75 hours per week, 5 days $1,889.45
Lowest package: 7.5 hours per week, 4 days $1,453.50
Highest package: 13.25 hours per week, 5-6 days $2,667
Lowest package: 8.25-10.5 hours per week, 4 days $1,647
The unique aspect about football programs is that the teams often provide the equipment. The equipment cost is reflected in the players’ fees, but saves the players’ families from having to shell out the high cost of buying their own equipment, Marano says.
Lots of equipment, especially helmets, must be recertified every year. Helmets are roughly $200 to replace and last about five years, Marano says. Shoulder pads are about $150 to replace and last about 10 years. Pants must be replaced every year or two and are about $40 to replace.
Another expensive aspect of football programs is travelling, which is usually by bus, due to football teams being so large (28 to 30 kids per team).
Football practices and games occur about four times a week beginning in August and running into mid-November. Another cost factored into the player fees is insurance, which is necessary in any contact sport.
Players provide their own shoes.
Atom (8-10 years) $500
Peewee (11-12 years) $500
Bantam (13-15 years) $500
The St. Albert gymnastics program is organized through a system of badges. The following are spring prices, which consist of 11 weeks of training. The exception is rhythmic gymnastics, which is eight weeks.
Cangym, advanced, and rhythmic gymnastics also have a $27 insurance fee, which is already included in the following prices.
Participants are also responsible for providing their own outfits.
Pre-school (3-4 years) $143
Cangym (5+ years) $181
Advanced (6+ years) $280
Rhythmic Gymnastics $153
Our national sport promises to be the most expensive sport for youth. This is due to several factors.
For one, hockey requires specialized facilities that are expensive to build and operate. Ice time at city rinks during prime time is $129 an hour for local youth groups.
Another aspect to youth hockey is rep teams, which play more often and do more travelling, which both result in higher fees.
Equipment is also a considerable cost to hockey families. Depending on the player’s age and the quality of equipment, it can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to a few thousand for a complete set of equipment.
Initiation 1 (2008-2009) $300
Initiation 2 (2007) $450
Novice (2005-2006) $585
Atom (2003-2004) $635
PeeWee (2001-2002) $685
Bantam (1999-2000) $685
Midget (1996-1998) $685
Rep teams $1,400/player
The St. Albert Rams charge a $30 membership fee for members in tyke through to midget age groups. The membership fee is included in the following prices.
Similar to hockey, players provide their own equipment, which includes shoes, helmets, sticks, shoulder pads, elbow pads and gloves.
Mini-tyke (2008-2010) $190
Tyke (2006-2007) $255
Novice (2004-2005) $350
PeeWee (2002-2003) $350
Bantam (2000-2001) $390
Midget (1998-1999) $390
Ringette, like hockey, is a program run in the winter, and for those players who wish to play at a higher level, there are AA tryouts (with fees) available for U14 to U19 age groups.
Equipment required is the same or similar to that needed for hockey.
U6 (2009-2010) $275
U9 (2007-2008) $595
U10 (2005-2006) $630
U12 (2003-2004) $675
U14 (2001-2002) $675, $95 fee for AA tryout
U16 (1999-2000) $675, $95 fee for AA tryout
U19 (1996-1998) $675, $95 fee for AA tryout
According to the Canadian Youth Sports Report, soccer is the number one team sport for kids aged three to 17 for both boys and girls.
The St. Albert Soccer Association rents its facility from the city for $1 a year and spends $40,000 a year to maintain the clubhouse and fields. However, these costs represent less than 10 per cent of the fees collected from players.
The majority of the fees go toward running the programs, jerseys, field rentals, referees, medals, insurance, and office costs and staff to organize the programs (necessary for a program that organizes 5,000 players), Martyn says.
A large cost is associated with renting fields elsewhere in the city, which cost anywhere from $15 to $55 per game, she says.
Some soccer associations in other communities require a certain amount of time or money dedicated to volunteering for the team – in order to raise funds. Besides the occasional bingo or casino, the St. Albert association does not have any volunteer requirements for its members.
Players provide their own shoes, shorts, socks and shin pads.
There is a $50 increase in fee after the early bird registration. This has not been included in the following prices.
Similar to outdoor soccer, in there is a $30 to 35 increase in the fee after the early bird registration. This has not been included in the following prices.